A guidebook for research managers by Alan Johnson

Professor Johnson talks about ‘Improving Your Research Management,’ which can be downloaded free from Elsevier

Imagine this: You’re a tenured university faculty member with a significant track record in your chosen field of research, and you’ve just landed your dream job — managing a prestigious research institute. Suddenly, you’re responsible for the work of entire teams of esteemed scholars, even perhaps a Nobel Prize winner, whose work spans subjects far beyond your own field of study.

It’s an exciting yet daunting assignment that triggers a host of questions.

How can you ensure the optimal research productivity of the teams you now lead — whether across units, institutions or national research groups? How can you provide the professional development needed to position early-career researchers for long-term success? And how can you elevate your own skills and expertise to effectively inspire, support and equip acclaimed researchers pursuing leading-edge investigations?

Senior research managers seldom step into the job with a ready grasp of these complicated issues, said Dr. Alan Johnson, an emeritus professor from Australia with three decades of research management and training experience. “Although they are usually experienced researchers in their own right, the people who fill these positions also usually have little or no experience in this type of management,” he explains.

Dr. Johnson set out to bridge that knowledge gap by compiling the answers to senior research leaders’ frequently asked questions in a 157-page ebook published this month by Elsevier. Improving Your Research Management is a thoroughly documented guidebook with common-sense advice for those tasked with the challenge of leading research teams, or those considering a future role in university research management.

“I wrote this book to give a straightforward practical guide to the skills and expertise that people new to the positions will need to understand and ideally practice,” he said, in a recent interview for Elsevier Connect.

These research leadership positions — which often come with the title “deputy vice president, research” or “associate dean, research” — are “especially challenging,” he explained, “as they have the responsibility for the research outputs and outcomes of the university and faculty, respectively, but no authority for the staff responsible for the outputs and outcomes.”

In this companion volume to the author’s career-planning handbook for early-career researchers, Charting a Course for a Successful Research Career, he pulls from the academic literature and personal experience.

The Author

Alan Johnson, PhD Dr. Alan Johnson, Emeritus Professor at the University of Technology Sydney in Australia, has 30 years of research, research management and research training experience in a range of organizations, including universities, Australian government agencies and international research organizations.He Johnson has published over 100 internationally refereed journal articles and received more than $3.5 million in competitive grant funding. He is an adjunct professor in the Australian School of Business at the University of New South Wales.

The topic of leadership commands the book’s opening chapter, followed by discussion of strategic planning, project management, research integrity and ethics, commercialization, university world rankings, governance, benchmarking and risk management. Dr. Johnson also discusses major factors that can impinge on the effective performance of senior academic management within the university context, “not only today but also into the future when resources may be even more competitive.”

Throughout, he encourages a holistic approach to improvement and implementation.

“This book will be of great benefit for not only deputy vice presidents (of research) and associate deans (of research),” he said, “but also to staff who aspire to work in these positions as part of their future career progression, or to staff who just wish to understand how and why their daily university roles are affected by those in these senior management positions.”

The book concludes with an extensive bibliography intended to jump-start further exploration. [divider]

Elsevier Connect Contributor

Sandra Millers YoungerSan Journalist Sandra Millers Younger is founder and principal of Editorial Excellence, a writing and editing service for colleges and universities, businesses and nonprofits. She has written or edited hundreds of published articles for publications ranging from academic journals to Seventeen Magazine. She is a former magazine editor and the author ofThe Fire Outside My Window, a first-person, nonfiction account of the biggest wildfire recorded in California history, due out in 2013.

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